Best Art Festival
From its humble beginnings as a neighborhood art crawl, the annual event known as Art-a-Whirl has expanded at such an exponential rate that it's now billed as the largest open-studio and gallery tour in the United States. Organized by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, Art-a-Whirl draws from the enormous pool of artists who have set up shop in the neighborhood. Old-timers might bemoan the neighborhood's recent hip cachet, but it's hard to argue against the eclectic vibrancy that defines the area. Featuring over 500 artists exhibiting a staggering range of disciplines (and skill levels), Art-a-Whirl allows for such odd juxtapositions as masterfully lavish landscape paintings positioned next to antique motorcycle parts repurposed as household appliances. Backyard galleries mix with cavernous studios, emcompassed by a carnivalesque atmosphere of vendors hawking homemade jewelry, vintage clothing, original music, and just about any other wares that can be displayed on a folding table. Scheduled for May 20 to 22, the 2011 Art-a-Whirl is sure to offer far more diversions than can be experienced in a single weekend. Should fatigue set in, however, the neighborhood's copious restaurants and bars welcome visitors with live music and refreshing drinks. Rejecting any notion of pretension, this is one art festival that feels like the host neighborhood: thrillingly diverse, wildly creative, and exceptionally hospitable.